Snow days and the effective Learning Platform. Using your website as a communication tool.

February 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School, User Adoption 

The following series of posts on our recent snow day will cover:

Part 1 The use of Twynham School’s SharePoint website during a snow day

Part 2 Does the Gateway support students with their learning during a snow day?

Part 3 What happens when we further engage students with the Learning Gateway?

Part 4 Does the Gateway support staff and allow them to work during a snow day?

The use of Twynham School’s SharePoint website during a snow day

January 2010 saw a turbulent start to the year in terms of the huge disruption to education during the extreme weather in the UK. The largest snowfall for 50 years and cold weather not seen since 1981 has forced schools across the country to close. With nearly 50% of schools in the UK closed on Wednesday 6th January and large numbers remaining closed for the remainder of the week one key question is, what was the impact be on learning with such widespread closures? Since 2008 all schools have been required to have a Learning Platform in place and whilst most have achieved this goal the extent to which these systems support learning beyond the classroom is questionable. During this disruptive period have students throughout the UK had access to high quality learning resources which they can use from home when schools are forced to close.

At Twynham School we managed to keep the school open throughout the first week in January except on Thursday 7th when ice throughout the site and surrounding road network forced a closure. Given the absence on Thursday we have taken the opportunity to look at the impact Twynham School’s Learning Platform had on the ability of students to learn during the forced closure.

Twynham School Website- how well did we handle the closure?

On Tuesday 5th January a notice was sent to all students during tutor time and the last lesson of the day when it became clear poor weather was likely. The message was a simple reminder, all confirmation of school closure would come through the school website. We do of course use other communication tools including radio but our commitment was to make a decision and post a notice by 7 am on the website. The figures below show on an average day we would expect around 3.000 hits to our website. I have taken analysis from the last week of the autumn term and the first week of the spring term to give a clear trend of 10 consecutive school days with the second last bar being the snow day.

Twynham School website visitors

Clearly the website was well used both on Wednesday 6th and Friday 8th January when a closure was possible but avoided. On the actual snow day we experienced over 21,000 hits which is 7 times the usual demand. Although our text message system and use of radio are other supporting ways to communicate with parents they are not without their pitfalls. Local radio took over an hour to mention each school closed on Thursday and is not a good medium with this volume of school closures. Text messaging can be effective but is reliant on having every parent’s mobile number and these remaining accurate throughout up to 5 years. Our analysis of household availability of broadband shows that it is near 100% and the statistical evidence shows that our parents and students use the website as an effective broadcast medium.

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